EVERETT — Firefighters, EMTs and paramedics in the city have been on the coronavirus pandemic response’s front line for months, and now they’re joining the campaign against disinformation.
Everett’s firefighters union posted a photo to its Facebook page last week touting that their ranks would be among the county’s first people to receive Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
“This is an endorsement from your (International Association of Fire Fighters) Local 46 to go get your shot,” union secretary Jason Brock said.
He’s a captain in the Everett Fire Department and uploaded the photo and post that included direct rebukes to people sharing misinformation about the vaccine.
“… We didn’t do it for us; we did it for the people we love: family, patients, friends and coworkers. There are skeptics out there, but we would highly recommend that you get yours when available. This is not a conspiracy. It’s not a hoax. It’s incredible 2020 medical technology from the smartest people with the best of intentions. Have faith in the system! …”
The vaccination was a surprise for the Everett Fire Department, Chief Dave DeMarco said in an email. First responders in the county were to begin vaccinations Jan. 6. But a mistake meant firefighters across the county could get vaccinated if they wanted the last weekend in December and the first weekend in January.
“It appears Snohomish County healthcare facilities received their first doses due to an error in King County,” DeMarco wrote.
A website quickly was set up for firefighters to schedule a vaccination appointment with the Everett Clinic. It had problems for some people trying to make an account or needing to go through the online scheduling process several times, which DeMarco said happened to him.
“The result has not been perfect, but I am not aware of government ever reacting more quickly than this,” he wrote.
About 600 Snohomish County firefighters were vaccinated over the first weekend but the exact number wasn’t immediately available, DeMarco said. A total for the second weekend was not immediately available Monday. There are about 1,700 emergency medical service workers in Snohomish County, including ambulance workers and firefighters, Everett Fire Assistant Chief Rich Llewellyn said.
Everett’s fire chief and union were working to determine how many of the fire department employees were vaccinated but that required negotiation because of health privacy law. DeMarco said the department won’t have the full accounting until after the second shot is administered in a few weeks.
The vaccination is not mandatory for Everett firefighters, but Brock said no one in Local 46 has refused it.
“People are pretty excited to see this come through,” Llewellyn said. “Since the pandemic started, I would say this is the first sign that we can get back to what was normal. … Firefighters always have been very visible to the community. This was an opportunity to demonstrate some leadership in the community.”
Despite wearing a face shield, N95 mask, gloves and a full medical gown, 16 Everett Fire Department members have contracted COVID-19 and more were exposed and considered close contacts, Brock said. None had to be hospitalized, Brock said. But either the disease or proximity to it has bumped dozens of Everett’s emergency responders off the job while they quarantine for at least 14 days. Brock has been a close contact but has not tested positive, for which he is thankful for his family and himself.
“The stress of having to quarantine away from my family during the holidays, it really weighs on you,” he said.
Some of Everett’s vaccinated firefighters reported minor side effects from the vaccine such as joint pain and muscle aches.
“It’s 100% normal,” Brock said.